LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – With a new secretary of state coming in, 10 current employees are out.

Turnover is routine when a new state constitutional officer is elected, but some of the employees claim this is not a typical transition. 

“I was very surprised,” said one of the 10 employees, who wished to remain anonymous. “The only reason they gave me was that they were doing some personnel changes.”

The secretary of state’s office has nearly 150 employees. Of the 10 let go, half were administrative assistants.

The confusion stems from where the employees got the information regarding their fate: two letters from two different people, the outgoing and incoming secretaries of state.  

The first letter dated Nov. 30 from Secretary of State-elect John Thurston, the state’s Republican land commissioner, notified the employees they would lose their jobs Jan. 14, the day before he is officially sworn into office. They were under the impression they would be paid through that time. 

But then the employees received a second letter dated Dec. 7 from the term-limited secretary of state, Republican Mark Martin. It told them the attorney general said Martin’s office is unable to offer them paid administrative leave.

According to the letter, the 10 employees were left with two options: resign effective Dec. 3 and receive the rest of their vacation time on their final paycheck or stay on the payroll until they use up their vacation time then take leave without pay until Jan. 12. The employees had until 5 p.m. Monday to decide. 

Some told us they chose a third option, to be laid off effective Dec. 3, to make sure they could easily receive unemployment. 

“I’m not just going to let this ride,” the employee said. “There is a lot of favoritism. It’s not based on how well you’re doing your job. Mr. Thurston doesn’t know anything about me or the other people they let go. For them to let us go, it had to be because of the current secretary of state telling them they wanted us gone.”

Thurston called the issue a “personnel matter for the current administration.”

“I provided the list of people who would not be retained,” he said. “That is all.”

The secretary of state’s office had no comment at this time.